On Tuesday, Pocatello/Chubbuck School District welcomed students back for their first day of school. Typically, the first day of school presents an opportunity for students and staff alike to express a sense of personal style and school pride. For our students that might mean wearing their best new school clothes or dressing for game day.
For our faculty, staff and administration, it may mean dressing up in a suit and tie or wearing their school’s spirit gear. This year, we asked our team, which is more than 1500 individuals strong, to present a district-wide commitment to our new Mission, Vision and Beliefs, by wearing our team shirts as we welcome our learners back to school.
While we anticipated what the mission would accomplish for our team in terms of presenting a united front, the positive response we received within our school communities as well as the community at-large, was a welcome surprise, with a few specific stories that we felt were worth sharing.
One story shared came from Chubbuck Elementary, where a number of students asked throughout the day why all the teachers were wearing the same shirts. A.J. Watson, Principal, relayed how his team used the questions as an opportunity to talk with students about the purpose of coming to school and how everyone at Chubbuck Elementary is there to learn together and work together.
Charise Balmer, who works as the Interventionist at Indian Hills Elementary school, shared an experience from shopping at a local grocery store after school. “Even as I walked through the store, I was immediately awestruck by how many individuals I saw wearing the district T-shirt!” Charise recalled. “As I was shopping in the clothing section, a gentleman approached me to ask me to tell him more about the shirt and what it meant. I explained to him that we had worn the shirt as a district to show unity and that we share the same vision for our student, no matter which school they attend.”
Later, as Charise was proceeding through the check-out line, she said a store employee, presumably in management, approached her with a similar question. When she relayed to him that the individuals he was seeing were all from the school district, he expressed amazement at the far-reaching impact of our team. “He told me how grateful he felt to be reminded that so many district staff come in and support his store,” Charise said.
Many other district team members and parents shared similar sentiments with me. One administrator, who is also a parent of children attending PCSD 25 schools, was approached by a parent on the soccer sidelines, who said, “It was very powerful to see everyone wearing the same shirt at every school today. It really showed unity and commitment to our kids.”
Another team member described it as a great equalizer. “No matter where you went, there were no lines differentiating between administrators and staff or part-time and full-time. We are all just one recognizable team working together,” she said. A newer team member described receiving a sense of familiarity even though she is a new face.
The first days of school always buzz with the excitement and anticipation of what a new year has the potential to bring. These stories reflect the intent behind the activity to bring our team together and set a positive tone for the year that reverberates throughout the community.
We anticipated good things, but the reflections we have heard surpassed our expectations. In the months to come, you may see our team members wearing their mission T-shirts on other district-wide occasions. We encourage you to reach out and ask questions so you can see firsthand our team’s united commitment to the learners and families of our community to think more, learn more and to be MORE TOGETHER. It’s going to be a great year!
Dr. Douglas Howell has been the superintendent of the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25 since 2016. He was born and raised in Pocatello. He attended Idaho State University and graduated in 1989 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Secondary Education with a double major in Health Education and Physical Education and a minor in Science. He completed an Education Administration certificate from ISU, in 2001, and earned a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership from ISU in 2006. In a career that spans nearly 30 years, Howell has held various roles within PCSD 25, including teaching and administration.